Review: Fag Ends And Families – Sir John Mills Theatre, Ipswich

There’s the well-known saying that you know you’re getting older when the policemen start looking younger, but in Simon Egerton’s solo show Fag Ends and Families it’s when the bar owners don’t look old enough to drink that triggers a sense of encroaching age.

Egerton says the piece isn’t ‘exactly’ autobiographical but even so it comes across as a deeply personal account of growing up, our shifting relationships with our parents and our own self-doubt. Merging storytelling, poetry and music, Egerton journeys from childhood memory through to a more sombre reflection of adulthood. It’s the family that shapes the child and here there are three strong influences in the youngster’s life. A chain smoking grandmother who instils a sense of style and grace in her young protégée, a father who has his own heart-breaking secret to hide and a mother in morning after the death of her firstborn.

Egerton cleverly interlaces the humorous anecdote with the darker, off footing his audience who find the piece becoming more intense as the hour develops. The story of the father’s battle with a latent homosexuality is particularly moving and well handled. While the monologues are well delivered and observed, it is perhaps in the more reflective musical numbers that the true narrative really takes flight.

There’s humour though, even in the darkest moments. Reflections on a funeral directors lacklustre attempt to recreate the deceased mother’s make up and a running joke about the posh camp delivery of the narrator provide light to balance the shade.

Director Lawrence Evans keeps the staging simple, allowing the wordplay to come to the fore and Egerton’s natural charm and rapport with the audience shine through.

This is still a preview performance prior to the Edinburgh Festival and it will be interesting to see how this openly personal tale competes with some of the wilder aspects of the Fringe offering. But for those looking for a break from the absurdity of the Scottish capital this August, an hour in the company of Egerton will provide a strong dash of nostalgia and an opportunity to reflect on the true meaning of familial relationships.

Written originally for The Public Reviews

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